Life's Little Details: Knitting, Sewing, Green Living, Frugal Living and Cooking In A Little Corner of Southern French Countryside.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Noro Sweater
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
You remember back in high school when you were a junior, and you ended up in a computer programming class with a bunch of freshmen? Do you also remember how horrified you were to find that each and everyone of them was much smarter than you? I do. It was not a pleasant experience. My only saving grace was the pride a computer nerd freshman would take in helping an older damsel in distress.

Why am I bringing this up? Was this just a fun stroll down memory lane? What do you think? Nope. These thoughts all came flooding back to me because I had another one of those dumb-junior-in-a-class-full-of-freshmen moments the other day. How's that? Well, let me splain it to ya.

Here I am enjoying the easy knit that is my current work in progress, fascinated by the way the Noro colors are laying themselves out, and, of course, congratulating myself on a job well-done (even if this is an elementary sort of project). Then, it occurs to me that I must have looked at the size small's yarn requirements, and I should probably take a little gander at those for the medium. Surely, it'll need the same three balls of that Noro that I only have three balls of, right? Delusional as I was to believe this, I opened the pattern book with one eye closed. Squinting with the open eye, I saw that I needed four. This is when my junior year of high school came rushing back to me in a flash.

Luckily for me, though, the secret pal who sent me this yarn is sweet and just happened to be planning a stash enrichment expedition this weekend. Yay! Secret Pal to the rescue. And, of course she'll be getting a nice reward in return for her generosity. *Big sigh*

For now, though, we can admire the lovely vest. Can't wait for cool whether (well, that and the extra ball of yarn so it'll have two arms).

Here Kitty, Kitty

The Kitties
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
You know, I can say that phrase and make kissie-kissie noises till I'm blue in the face, but this is as close as they'll let me get. Funny thing is, the kids are much more likely to hurt them (with their bizarre need to cruely chase them from their feeding dish), but they're somehow less frightened by them than me. Go figure.

Either way, I enjoy sitting and watching them gobble down their food each afternoon. I know I haven't given any updates about them in a long time, so I guess I'll do that now.

A while back, I noticed there were no only two. The third seems to have disappeared. It was about that time that I realized that the other two were looking pretty skinny. I fed them everyday, but that didn't seem to matter. Then, one day, while the kids and I were playing in the winery, one of them left behind it's timidity to come call me. I fed it, and then realized that the adult male of the group had been sneaking over and scaring away to kitties to eat their food. Now, he's been fending for himself in the wild just fine, so I was irked, to say the least.

I've switched their feeding time, and I try to watch as much as possible to scare their deadbeat dad off if he shows up. So far, so good. They're plumping up nicely and have nice, shiny coats now.

One thing I've noticed is that there is a definite pecking order. The little guy (or girl, maybe) whose face is whiter is definitely the leader. He/she always gets his/her fill of food before the other one comes in. If the other one makes an attempt at eating while the first one gets a sip of water, it gets whacked with a paw. I've put out a second dish to see if we can make life a little fairer.

Mini Egg

Mini Egg
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
I told you the other day that there was another miniature item around here, but Flickr didn't upload it right the first time. It worked the second time I tried, so here you have it. This was apparently the result of poulty constipation. I've spoken of this before, thinking that it was the reason behind the larger eggs we see. Now I'm not so sure. This one, though, was found among some poop, so it really was pooped out, I guess. Weird that the eggs come from the same place as... well, let's not get into that, because I do like to eat them.

Cute, though, ain't it?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Soooo Long

No, I'm not saying good-bye. It's just been so long since my last post that I'm not sure what I want to say. First, there's not much that gets me motivated enough to type on the keyboard my toddler pulled keys off of the other day. I wasn't able to get some on well, and they have to be hit hard to work. He must have known that the space bar and the 'm' get used a lot. Actually, he selected mostly only the commonly-used letters. I sat there for at least an hour crying over my lost baby (the computer, not the kid - I didn't kill him, of course!) while trying to force those little things back into place.

I do have a bit of news to share (no, Mom, that's doesn't mean I'm pregnant). I started a sweater when I thought I'd go insane knitting that buttermilk-colored baby blanket. I'm 70% done with it, and I figured that, despite my vow to work only on it till done, I deserved a break. I mean, who wants to end up in a straight-jacket, banging their head against padded walls because of a never-ending knitting project? Seriously, I've got my kids for that.

And, anyway, I was really itching to use that Noro Kureyon my secret pal sent me. But, what do you do with those three skeins? Luckily, I've been coveting the stuff for quite some time and already had two pattern books featuring Noro yarns. So, (drum roll, please) I've finished the back and 3/4 of the front on the cute little red sweater on the front cover of the Noro Knits book that uses Noro in combination with another brand of yarn - Debbie Bliss?, if I remember right. I'm obviously not using the recommended yarn, or I'd know the brand. Mine's not red, either. It is really cool, though, and I'm loving this project even if it's a really simple knit. The Noro color changes make the whole process very mysterious. You have to keep knitting compulsively to find out how the colors will lay themselves out. Very fun. And, then there's the mystery of whether the Noro colorway, in all its funky glory, will even match the yarn you've chosen to go with it. And, luckily for me, it does. I'm really excited (but apparently not enough to have taken the time to document it for you in picture form - patience, I'll do it soon).

Well, I have expended way to much hand-energy hammering on the m-key. I've got to save my strength for knitting!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

My First Bread

Mini Bread Loaf
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
Aw, int dat tweet. Her very first loaf of bread. It's a mini. She has been wanting to help Mommy a lot this past week. Sometimes it's great (like the fact that we can almost see the tops of the washer and dryer now - she put all her own clothes away). Other times it can hinder me somewhat. But, rather than tell her no, I'm trying to find ways she can feel helpful without slowing things down.

So, here's an instance where everyone was happy. I was making bread, and when I got to the kneading part, she wanted to help. You can imagine how long that would have taken had I allowed her to knead all 2 loaves-worth of dough by herself. We wanted to eat it earlier than next week, so I pinched off a chunk for her to knead herself. It's a bit like playing with play-dough for her, except she had a great edible treat afterwards. She loved it and was so proud. Next time, maybe I should have her make whatever fun shape she wants to make.

I also had a photo of another miniature object, but Flickr didn't like it for some reason. I'll have to try again tomorrow, because it's really quite funny.

On the knitting front, I was feeling a bit burnt out on the miles and miles of buttermilk-colored baby blanket. I just couldn't take it anymore (despite my vow to work only on it till it's done). That color is so bland. Who could blame me? So, I made a swatch for another project I'm hoping I can get it to work out alright.

I've got some really pretty aqua merino yarn that may go well with the Noro I got from my secret pal recently. I swatched the two together, but it's hard to say how they'll look, since the colors of the Noro won't spread themselves out like that on a sweater. I may just go for it and hope for the best - just tell myself that I knit for the pleasure of knitting and that I don't care if I need to frog an entire front of a sweater. Right. That's it. Mmmhmm.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Age of Enlightenment... apparently 30, because I'm really learning a lot in these last few posts. Thanks, Jenifer, for letting me know a "translation" of that song exists. I did a little search, as I'm known to do, and came up with a page. It may not be the one you found funny, but it's a "translation" of the song, anyway. Here it is. Notice at the bottom of the page, where they talk about how hollaback girl is slang for cheerleader, and where the idea for the song came from. I don't get the idea, personally, from reading the lyrics that she is taking issue with the promiscuousness people often associate with cheerleaders, especially given the fact that she apparently was called a cheerleader and basically said "yeah, what of it?".

Combining the info I got from the earlier chat site with that from this page, I'm thinking she's saying she may be a cheerleader but she isn't a follower. She's the leader. And, she's willing to take all those bad connotations and shove them wherever on the body of the accuser strikes her fancy. Incidentally, it's not at all a song about a girl being mad at a guy, as the earlier chat site had stated. Her saying "dude" isn't for a guy. As Jenifer noted, you could even call your own mom dude. My guess is this song is just a "kiss my dairy-air" kind of song for all those who might spread rumors or judge others. Ideal for high school, I'd say.

Umm, yeah, I know what you're thinking -way too much time on my hands. What can I say? Apparently my undergraduate degree in English Literature and Linguistics has left a permanent mark on my brain. I'll analyze just about anything, I guess. Anyway, at least I ain't no hollaback girl.

Old Before My Time

Just a quick side note before I dive head first into this blog post...

The other day's "Ouch" post was my 300th. Just happened to notice that before starting to write this one. Should we have some kind of partaaaaay? Nah, guess not. It is interesting to note that I'm averaging more than one post a day, though - even with all my recent posting laziness and the month or so I took off when I went back to the US in February.

So, now to the reason I am old before my time.

I was driving along the other day trying hard to find some music on what appears to be almost all talk French radio (practically every station, I swear). Finally, I happened upon one of the only stations currently playing music and listened to a few moments of pop stuff. This is when the question came to me: "What on earth is a hollerback girl?" Obviously, my two toddlers weren't going to solve this one for me, but pondering this question is when it occurred to me that the longer I live outside the US, the more archaic and un-American my English will become. When I'm fifty, I'll be much more outdated and old sounding than your average fifty-year-old. Sad, I know. It'll be even worse than you're imagining, though, because I've never been one to employ much slang even when I was aware of the meaning of the words.

For instance, I remember all the other preteens around me starting to say everything was "cool". Despite the name of my blog, I'm apparently far from being a sheep, because I refused to adopt that word into my vocabulary for several more years. Then, there's the fact that even after spending all of my teenage years in San Diego, I never developed the habit of saying "dude". I guess I'm just not much of a follower, which brings us nicely back around to what a "hollerback girl" is.

Like everything else I don't know, I looked it up on the net. That's what's great about this ole web. You can look up anything from medical terms to weird slang expressions and get an answer to almost any question. Anyway, so I did a little search and stumbled upon a very questionable chat site that I won't be redirecting you to. It did have the answer I was looking for, though. So, a hollerback girl is a cheerleader, but not the captain. It's the little girlies behind her who holler back in answer to her prompts. Captain: "Give me a T". Hollerback girls: "T!" Captain: "What's that spell?" Hollerback girls: "Umm, T?" etc. In the broader sense of the term when used for slang, it's a follower.

Apparently, the song I was listening to was one by Gwen Stefani, in which she says, "I ain't no hollaback girl." You can read the lyrics here. She's pretty much saying she won't be the follower and let some guy get the upperhand talking $%&* about her. So, there you have it. A bit of cultural awareness for us all. I know I feel enlightened. How about you?

Friday, August 19, 2005


Feeling a bit down this afternoon. Perhaps it's the gloomy weather. Or maybe it's the sudden urge I have to start a new project (surely brought on by my vow to stick to the Cable Baby Blanket till it's done).

No, I think it's the massive headache I've got this evening. The cause? Being whacked on the back of the head with a rock the size of my husband's sizeable fist. After a moment of a lifetime of mystery novels passing through my mind (wherein I was the protagonist being walloped by the bad guy), I turned to see my 1 and 1/2-year-old no longer holding the rock I had seen him with just moments earlier. Yeah, I have driven my toddler to kill me. Luckily, I've always been hard-headed, and he has yet to develop the strong arm his daddy will later be proud of on a rugby field.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Cable Baby Blanket Progress (Close-up)

I'm just plumb out of good post titles today (but at least I'm getting good use out of "plumb", which we talked about in an earlier post). So, we're just going to make due with plain, old descriptive titles. I know, it's not sexy, but it's the best I can do today. Maybe I'll be able to be a little more Hollywood another day and come up with something worthy of the knit blog equivalent of an Oscar. Today, I just don't have it in me.

So, back to the subject at hand... since, I absolutely love yarny close-ups, I couldn't resist putting up a close-up of the Cable Baby Blanket. I really love the texture of cables. So fun to look at.

Cable Baby Blanket Progress

Also on the to-be-finished list is the Cable Baby Blanket I started many moons ago for my niece, who was born in April. So, in an effort to keep it from becoming a high school graduation gift, I am trying to knit only this project until it's done. We'll see if that happens. It goes pretty quickly, at least, and there's enough interest to keep me happy with it.

I love the way this blanket is turning out. It'll be so cozy and warm. It's really not a big deal that it didn't end up being a gift at the baby's birth, because it's going to be crib-size, so it'll last a while. She may still be in her little bassinette, so we're not even really late (Did you detect a note of rationalizing, there, or was I able to hide it?).

Humongous Hubbie Sock

Humongous Hubbie Sock
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
Françoise asked in the comments for my Feather and Fan Shawl, "What's next?". It's hard to tell if she meant she wanted to know which project was next or which shawl I'd like to conquer next (since she whips out complicated, lacey shawls like they're garter stitch scarves). I've got a little hankering to do the Sampler Shawl in Cheryl Oberle's Folk Shawls book, but I'm not sure I've got any yarn in the stash that would suit the pattern. It also has a 400-hundred-some-odd stitch cast-on row. You've got to be brave to do that.

So, instead of that, I'll show you what's up next on the list of finished objects. I know, it's a bit overzealous and maybe too cocky (as we all know our knitting can get a little snooty when we get cocky), but I'll show you the couple of items I've been working on lately that I want to get finished in the near future. For some reason, I've been in the mood to actually finish things. Maybe it's a lack of inspiration for new projects, but I don't think so. I like to think it's diligance.

Anyway, so here is the first sock I made for my husband. It's huge, as the post title states (I wasn't calling my husband humongous... though, if the sock fits...). I love the way this yarn knits up. It's just a plain ole sock, because, you know, I figured he wouldn't appreciate the lacey number I would have prefered to knit.

So, right here, right now, I vow to finish the second sock before it's cold enough for him to use it. Besides, I sort of owe him now. No, he didn't fulfill any naughty fantasies for me. In fact, it's even more embarrassing to admit than that would be. I shrunk a pair of hand-knit socks. My last secret pal was so sweet she sent him a wonderfully knit pair of black wool socks. I misjudged them. I thought they were acrylic (I really should have asked) and slipped them in the wash after the kids got ahold of them and got them dirty. Good news, though, is that I've got a brand new, never-been-worn pair of black socks that fit me just right. He swears I did it on purpose. I swear I didn't, but thanks, Gayle, for the new socks (and, sorry I shrunk them)!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Giving Up, Giving In, Giving Out

For non-native speakers of English, the hardest thing about the language seems to be memorizing the dizzying number of idiomatic expressions that stem from little verbs like "get" or "take," to which we add a cute little word of seemingly small significance that somehow totally changes the entire meaning of the phrase. For all you non-native speakers of English, this post's for you (and anyone who wants to wade through it just to see my new shawl).

Lets take "give", for example. You add "in" to it, and you get a little expression meaning that you've had it. You just can't stand it anymore. Like, say, when a 4-year-old begs and begs and begs for candy, and just when you think your eyes are swelling so huge they're about to pop right out of the sockets and fall to the floor at your preschooler's feet, you give in. Why? You need your sanity. Yep, you give them the candy.

Then, if you add "up" to "give", well, this also somehow means that you've had enough and just can't stand it anymore. But, somehow it's different. That's English for you. Go figger. See, this one means you're going to quit trying. Say, for example, that you're working on a never-ending shawl pattern that doesn't seem to grow with the numerous stitches you continually add to it. At some point, you just throw up your hands in dismay and "give up". You either cast off right at the completely arbitrary spot you're at, or you throw the entire thing in the trash, needles and all.

That last of the three "give" idioms in the post title (you did notice I was explaining that post title, I hope) is "give out". This is a fun one that I suspect even many people from the northern parts of the US are not totally familiar with. That's a shame, too, because it's entertaining to say and hear said. Alright, say you're a redneck, and you've been on your tractor all afternoon plowing the fields. Once again, you just can't take it anymore. Yep, you've had enough. Except this time, it means you're tired (in a physical sense). So, you fling open the screen door, walk quickly to the silverware drawer and pull out a fork to scratch your back with. When you finish, you chuck it back into the drawer and head to the fridge for a beer, exclaiming to your wife, "I'm just plumb give out." Plumb's another great word to know. You can use it with all kinds of verbs to mean "completely".

So, why the English lesson today? Well, I was knitting on that Feather and Fan Shawl that I must have started some time in January or February. I had a total of three skeins of yarn to use on it. And, last night as I neared the end of skein number two, it occurred to me that I was a bit tired of this shawl. It's pretty repetitive once you get the hang of it, and, honestly, all I really want is just to be able to wear it (now! - if it gets cool enough). So, I "gave in" to my urge to "give up" entirely on doing the whole three skeins. 'Cause, people, I was just plumb "give out."

As it turns out, it was approximately the right size after blocking. I didn't even need that third skein. And, you can look at the little picture to see it in all its glory.

I know, it's a little weird to take a chair outside just to snap a shot of a shawl, but I don't have one of those pretty wood decks or even a nice fence to hang it on. I even tried getting Lambchop #1 to pose with it, but that girl's got no future in modelling. She may be cute, but forget knowing how to pose. I couldn't get her to stand still or even keep from dragging it through the weeds while she tried.

We're having an outdoor dinner this evening, and it may just be chilly enough to slip this baby around my shoulders without looking like a total idiot whose way too proud of her most recent FO. I've even dressed in something that won't clash with it just in case. I'm sly that way.


If a knitter finally casts off the last stitch of a long-awaited shawl, but no other knitters are around to see it done (and thus share the excitement), did it really get finished?

These are the pertinent questions of our time...

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Sweet Secret Pal

Yummy Noro
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
I must have happened upon the sweetest seventeen-year-old for a secret pal. Yes, seventeen years old. And, she's been knitting way longer than I have. I don't think it would ever have even occurred to me at that age to participate in a secret pals exchange, obsessed as I was with the opposite sex at the time. But, my pal is seventeen years old, and has been knitting since she was five. And, luckily for me, she's generous and has great taste in yarn.

The proof is in the picture. Take a little gander. Perty, ain't it. That's three balls of Noro Kureyon in a lovely colorway that really spans the color spectrum. I'm so excited. I just don't quite know what I'm going to do with it yet. I may combine it with some other solid color but matching yarn to make a sweater. We'll just have to see about that. Lovely, though, isn't it?

And, if you look closely, you see tucked in there behind the yarn a couple more goodies. There are some knitty Christmas cards from my pal. Then, there are also tons of little packets of KoolAid in all the colors imaginable. I got those from our online knitting friend, Bohemian Mama (Chelee). I'm really anxious to get a chance to dive into those. She even sent samples of some goodies she has dyed with KoolAid. Great inspiration. That'll be a fun thing to try some afternoon with Lambchop #1 (if she doesn't fall asleep on me beforehand this time).

In other knitting news, I finished a whole sock for my husband. It only took me a few days (not non-stop knitting, either). It's made of Knit Picks Sock Garden in the colorway they call Daffodil. Really nice colorway that can go the masculine route if it's asked to. I'll get a picture of it soon enough to show. Until then eat your heart out staring at my lovely new Kureyon.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Obscure French Word of The Day

One of the perks of actually living in France, breathing French air and consorting on a regular basis with the French is the variety of bizarre French words I am able to amass. These are words not even the highest level of university French course is likely to teach you. Heck, your high school French teacher, in all of her summer trips abroad, may not even have encountered these.

So, what's the most recent obscure word I've added to my ever-growing French vocabulary? "Un zona." Repeat after me... "un zona". And, what does it mean? Those of you who already know are currently wincing in pain and shaking your heads with pity, because you are aware that someone in my close proximity has come down with "Shingles". That's right - the adult version of the chicken pox. And, unlike most "adult" versions of just about anything, this one is NOT more fun.

And, since most people aren't really sure exactly what shingles is (aside from those little rectangular things that keep the rain out of your livingroom), I'll give you a brief run-down. I believe the one phrase that can best sum it up is "excruciating pain". Oh, you were looking for something a bit more scientific? Well, I'm no doctor, but here's my layman's terms explanation for you. When you get the chicken pox, sometimes (or perhaps always - not sure about this) the virus lodges itself in your nerve roots to lie there dormant, sometimes for years and sometimes forever. When you are unlucky enough to provoke its anger, it decides to pop back up for a sequel of the first itchy attack. Now there's an important term you should have noticed here in all this explaining - nerve roots. As in, those little things that allow us to feel sensations. So, usually brought on by increased age, but sometimes by whatever may have weakened your immune system, the cruel little virus doodads start to procreate. This is where the excruciating pain comes in. A virus... in your nerve roots (which at this point are going "haywire" - the exact medical term for it, I'm sure)... just pounding away trying to reach the surface. Good times.

So, in short, the virus starts reproducing again and painfully working its way to your skin. It causes a bizarre tingling/aching/burning sensation that I can't fully describe for you. Just when you thought you must have had a collision with a Mac truck in your sleep (because nothing else could possibly explain these mysterious pains), little chicken pox pustules begin to appear at the location of the pain. Aha! A clue. This is when you cry, because you now know you've got shingles.

I mentioned above that I couldn't fully describe the feeling of having shingles. This, luckily for me, is not because I lack the proper words, but because it ain't me who's got it. Whew! 'Cause it looks like it sucks. It's not even my 85-year-old great aunt, which is good, since she doesn't need another health problem after that bout with pneumonia earlier this year. It's my 36-year-old husband. What's up with that? Isn't this a disease for the aging and infirm? Guess not. Apparently, the toddler-induced lack of sleep has taken its toll. Poor thing. He's got harvest coming up in the next couple of weeks. And, what really sucks is that, even though he's a bounce-back right away kind of guy, this stuff lingers. He has my full sympathy and maybe even deserves a wee bit of pampering.

I spared you the pictures, because though I find my husband's back to be sexy, I'm fully aware that even a sexy back covered (okay, not really covered) in pustules ain't a pretty sight.

Oh, and back to the French word for shingles. Did you notice it's singular, whereas it's plural in English? It's like saying you've got "a zone", but it appears to be taken from Latin. Kind of funny. So, in French, as opposed to having "it" like we have in English, you have "one." Sounds somehow less daunting that way. There's just "one" so it can't be half as bad as having the ominous-sounding "it." Right? Let's go ask my husband, shall we?

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Secret Pal Bookmark

Secret Pal Bookmark
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
So, while we're on the subject of sending stuff to people I've never met before, which my husband and others I know seem to find a bit odd, by the way...

here is a little bookmark I whipped up for my secret pal. I think she likes to read (hard to know for sure), so I thought she might like this. Let's hope. I'll be sending it off soon.

Praying Feet

Sock Pal Socks
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
When I was little, we lived for several years in a small town near Tulsa, Oklahoma. Somewhere in that same area is Oral Roberts University, home of the 60-foot, 30-ton bronze praying hands. They're quite a sight, even if I wouldn't want them on my front lawn. They may prove effective at scaring birds away from the tomatoe plants, though. Kind of gaudy, really (or perhaps "Goddy"). Have a look for yourself by clicking here.

Anywho... my point. So, here are my praying feet. Okay, actually, I'm just showing off the finished socks for my sock pal. I'm quite pleased with them. They are now washed and blocked and looking pretty in their box ready for shipment.

What Do You Get When...

you put a couple of cups of heavy whipping cream in a jar, close the lid and shake for several minutes?

If you're lucky, you get whipped cream, then eventually fresh butter and a bit of buttermilk for baking.

If you're me, you get tired arms and a slippery grip that result in the jar of almost-butter flying across the room, colliding with the linoleum floor and shattering to spray whipped cream/shards of glass in all directions.


Friday, August 12, 2005

Unappreciated Gestures

For the past week or maybe a bit longer, I have been feeling down. I was fuzzy as to the reason, feeling that it was surely 100% related to my being far from family on my birthday, but my daughter brought it all clearly into focus for me this evening.

We are currently a bit low on funds. We've been doing fine because I have been making a real effort to save in as many ways as I can. This means more work for me. I bake more. I have to put more thought and time into meal preparations and gift giving. And we won't even go into the added bother of using cloth diapers. There are clearly perks to doing some of these moneysaving things, like the massive decrease we've seen in our trash pile-up (we don't get curbside service out where we live and have to haul it in ourselves) or the fewer trips to the store. But - and this is a big but - the workload was already more than I could handle in many ways. Luckily, I enjoy baking and can have some fun with creative gift-giving, so it's not all bad, but a bit of appreciation goes a long way toward proper payment for these tasks lovingly accomplished for others each day. What do I get, though?

Instead of thank yous and pleases or hugs and kisses, I get grief. Despite the lack of money, I decided to splurge this evening by taking our two kids to a carnival in a nearby town. We all know these are sinkholes for your hard-earned cash. Each twirl of the merry-go-round is like the psychadelic spin of a blackhole sucking the coins and bills from your pockets, never to be seen again. I knew this in advance but took the kids anyway, knowing they'd have fun - thinking they'd have fun, perhaps I should say. And, they did, until the moment came that they didn't get exactly 100% every single thing they wanted. Actually, that's not accurate. My 20-month-old was completely content with his first carnival experience. He quietly road the merry-go-rounds and poneys with a serene look of pleasure.

But, then there was his sister, satisfied only until she received a prize and later decided it wasn't exactly what she'd wanted. After picking it out and removing its packaging, she wanted to give it back and get another. This is when the fit started. I was able to contain it with a simple explanation of manners under such circumstances. Shortly thereafter, however, I did not have the foresight to leave before my friend purchased carnival food for her children. After my refusal to do the same, the real temper-tantrum commenced. So, this is how our hour of fun at the local carnival ended with approximately 40 minutes of screaming, silent treatments, and other forms of toddler abuse on the way home (the most common being the "you're not my mommy anymore" and "you're a mean mommy" arguments she falls back on with such frequency). I never give into these tactics, but she continues to use them. This time I was even able to mostly refrain from responding with yelling and other undesirable punishments. Instead, I explained that this is not the way to thank others for doing us favors, and she would be spending some time in her room to ponder this fact.

What really shocked me about all of it, though, was not so much her tantrums but my reaction to them. I was genuinely hurt by all of it. I came home almost in tears and have stayed in this mood for the entire evening. Her 40-minute tantrum amplified the feelings of underappreciation I have been experiencing lately.

You see, I have no job outside the home. This family and our home is pretty much my entire life. I knit and blog somewhat as an escape during my quiet moments. These hobbies are a way of feeling some sense of accomplishment and fulfillment when others refuse to appreciate the little muffins, cookies, bread, waffles and other edibles I make for them on a daily basis (or the fact that their favorite pink shirt somehow gets clean each time they wear it). I can't bury my head in a pile of paperwork at the office to gain some sense of self-worth when I don't get any kudos at home. This is all there is. And, yet somehow it all goes unnoticed, IT being my efforts, my love poured out to them on aluminum platters and studded with chocolate chips. They devour it whole, sometimes with a smile and a happy grunt, but rarely with any word of thanks. Most of the time, the smile and grunt suffice. It is enough to see they like the fruits of my labor. These are the moments it pays to be a mommy. But, on days when I'm stepped on even when I've gone out of my way to please - well, that's when it hurts to be a mommy.

I guess what I'm trying to say with all of this is: don't take those little everyday favors for granted. Thank Mom for the cookies. Thank your husband for the not-up-to-par meal that kept you from having to cook. Thank your children for actually finishing that list of chores. You just might hit them on a day when they need it.

So, although I've finished my sockpaltwoza socks and a bookmark for my secret pal, as well as having started a pair of socks for my husband, this is what is on my mind. The knitting will just have to wait till another day.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Attention Span of A Two-Year-Old

We talk about the attention spans of two-year-olds as if they are notoriously short. My 20-month-old has spent the better part of the past half-hour peeling and piling the brown, papery outer skin off a bag of onions. I'm allowing him to continue littering the floor in this manner, only to see just how long this form of entertainment will last him (incidentally, we may be having French Onion Soup for dinner tonight).

With all of my multi-tasking and general bouncing from chore to chore and project to project, I don't get nearly as much accomplished in such little time. So, there's clearly something to be said for the attention span of two-year-old. And, since I hate peeling onions before chopping them up only slightly more than I detest sweeping, he's actually doing me a favor.

Monday, August 08, 2005

I'm Virtually Thirty!

Birthday Nuts!
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
So, tomorrow's my birthday. Thirty years old. I don't feel a day over 24, except maybe those moments when the kids make me feel like pulling my hair out.

We all know from my previous post that I was a bit down about not being around family for my birthday. Poor me, never had a good surprise party... blah, blah, blah. My own private pity party is what I was having. Anyway, nuff of that. And, apparently, that's what Mom and Dad thought, too. So, they called me up with our handy dandy ISight webcam thingamabobbers. And, what did I see? A (virtual) surprise party, fully-loaded with decorations, goofy hats (on goofy people's heads), cake and all (except they forgot to yell surprise). It was great.

I mean, how many people can claim their birthday was celebrated in three time zones (I know, you're doing the math, and can't see how my parent's place and mine equals three time zones. Well, my brother and sister-in-law were in on it, too, hence the third timezone)? Very cool party, and nobody was hungover the next morning (as far as I know).

To top it off, the dogs were even convinced forced to wear party hats. This shot is my chance to embarrass Dad all over the internet (not that my blog is THAT popular). Plus, I just thought it looked fun with him and the dog wearing matching party hats. This dog, by the way, is was mine before I had to leave for grad school and then skipped the country, leaving him with all sorts of abandonment issues. Poor thing, every time he gets attached to anyone, they leave (he was extremely fond of my grandparents before their deaths earlier this year). We think he blames my mother, because she can no longer get near him without him wildly snapping at her. He's still a cutie, though, huh? That's my Scrappydoodle.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Our Little Princess

Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
Oh, and she acts like it, too - but that's not what we're here to talk about.

I did some sewing yesterday. Nope, this photo has nothing to do with that. I just didn't take a picture of the skirt I made before giving it to the friend it was intended for. So, you won't get to see it, unless someday I get a picture of her when she happens to be wearing it. It's cute, though, and you'll just have to trust me on that. To top it all off, it's very "her", which pleases me to no end, since I picked out the fabric without her.

The picture you see here is to show you another thing I sewed long ago (for last Halloween, to be exact). I was and am so proud of this dress, which was probably my first real attempt at sewing something reasonably complicated. It's not perfect, but she loves it, and it has held up really well with all the wear and tear it's received since then. It'll soon be too small, I imagine, and we'll have to make another.

The other reason for this picture is to show off the new purse. This came in the mail yesterday all the way from Californ-i-a. She was thrilled to get mail and even more thrilled when she opened it to find this bag with some princess accessories inside. Thanks to our favorite American aunt and uncle! You hit the nail on the head here and made a very happy 4-year-old.

In other, more selfish news, I'm running head-on into a thirtieth birthday very soon. Ever read my "profile" on the right side of the screen? The place where I say I'm nearing thirty - that'll need to be changed. I'm not too frightened by the big 3-0. It's more a question of feeling a bit down about the fact that I've gotten through 30 years of my life without ever inspiring a good surprise party. Does that seem silly? Really, at this point, I don't even need that. It'd just be nice to have someone in this country know me well enough and care enough about me (oh, and be more thoughtful than my husband) to do a little something so that this landmark occasion doesn't go by unnoticed. It most likely will, though, and I'm trying to come to terms with that before the day hits me smack in the face with that realization.

See, were I at "home" as my mom still keeps calling the US for me, I'd have a small family gathering, where good ole mom would make sure there'd be a cake and some gifts. This birthday would not be forgotten. For that to happen here, it would entail me making my own cake (which I may end up doing) and lighting my own candles to blow out. There's something a bit saddening about that idea.

It reminds me of my first Christmas here, when I received a litany of anonymous gifts you could give anyone. They underlined the fact that no one here really knew me. In the six months that I had spent in and around my husband's family, no one had taken the time to ask the pertinent questions needed to learn enough about me to buy the appropriate, thoughtful gifts. The sting of those gifts - gifts without purpose or meaning - was unbearable. It was the only Christmas I've ever cried. I never felt farther away from home than on that Christmas morning.

Since then, things have changed. I've made friends. I've even made peace with my mother-in-law. In short, I've made a home out of my adopted country, whether it wants me or not. What I haven't appeared to have made is an impression. So, though our little prefab mess is home to me (even if I complain daily of having to live in it), nearing my thirthieth birthday has hit me with the realization that feeling at home 365 days a year is about the people you surround yourself with. And, unfortunately, home is still so far away.

So, Mom, and those who'd have had a party for me, break out the cake in my honor, will ya? It'd be much appreciated on this side of the Atlantic.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Make A Wish!

Make A Wish!
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
See, she seems to be happy with the homemade teddybear cake, don't you think?

By the way, for those who are interested, everthing about this cake is homemade (icing, cake, decorations and all - well, I didn't manufacture the food coloring and candles, but you know what I mean). It's a scrumptious yellow cake recipe (which I usually do not like) with chocolate cream icing.

Oh, and this was not the only baking I did on Saturday. I really baked up a storm. Unfortunately for this blog, though, I didn't snap up a storm with the camera. Oops! Bad blogger. I also baked 60 chocolate chip cookies, and about the same amount of brownies and lemon bars. They, as well as the rest of my party concoctions went over very well. One person even told me I should open a sweet shop. Hmmm. Now there's an idea. I think I could handle having an excuse to bake all the time but not have to consume all the calories myself.

Homemade Teddybear Cake

Homemade Teddybear Cake
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Okay, so it's no work of art, and it's not the supermarket Mickey Mouse cake she begged for a week before her birthday, but it tasted fresh and homemade and had all kinds of love in it (something that could never be said for the Mickey Mouse cake).

She never even mentioned the Mickey Mouse cake again, anyway, so this one must have done the trick. Besides, this one was quite a bit cheaper, and I know exactly what went into it. Not to mention that I'll have the teddybear mould for later cakes. That was most of the expense, and it's more like an investment, right?